One of the most persistent debates in anthropology and related disciplines has been over the relative weight of aggression and competition versus nonaggression and cooperation as drivers of human behavioral evolution. The literature on hunting and gathering societies—past and present—has played a prominent role in these debates. This review compares recent literature from both sides of the argument and evaluates how accurately various authors use or misuse the ethnographic and archaeological research on hunters and gatherers. Whereas some theories provide a very poor fit with the hunter-gatherer evidence, others build their arguments around a much fuller range of the available data. The latter make a convincing case for models of human evolution that place at their center cooperative breeding and child-rearing, as well as management of conflict, flexible land tenure, and balanced gender relations.


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